Molecular and cellular mechanisms of cardiovascular disorders in diabetes

Manasi S. Shah, Michael Brownlee

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

408 Scopus citations


The clinical correlations linking diabetes mellitus with accelerated atherosclerosis, cardiomyopathy, and increased post-myocardial infarction fatality rates are increasingly understood in mechanistic terms. The multiple mechanisms discussed in this review seem to share a common element: prolonged increases in reactive oxygen species (ROS) production in diabetic cardiovascular cells. Intracellular hyperglycemia causes excessive ROS production. This activates nuclear poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase, which inhibits GAPDH, shunting early glycolytic intermediates into pathogenic signaling pathways. ROS and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase also reduce sirtuin, PGC-1α, and AMP-activated protein kinase activity. These changes cause decreased mitochondrial biogenesis, increased ROS production, and disturbed circadian clock synchronization of glucose and lipid metabolism. Excessive ROS production also facilitates nuclear transport of proatherogenic transcription factors, increases transcription of the neutrophil enzyme initiating NETosis, peptidylarginine deiminase 4, and activates the NOD-like receptor family, pyrin domain-containing 3 inflammasome. Insulin resistance causes excessive cardiomyocyte ROS production by increasing fatty acid flux and oxidation. This stimulates overexpression of the nuclear receptor PPARα and nuclear translocation of forkhead box O 1, which cause cardiomyopathy. ROS also shift the balance between mitochondrial fusion and fission in favor of increased fission, reducing the metabolic capacity and efficiency of the mitochondrial electron transport chain and ATP synthesis. Mitochondrial oxidative stress also plays a central role in angiotensin II-induced gap junction remodeling and arrhythmogenesis. ROS contribute to sudden death in diabetics after myocardial infarction by increasing post-translational protein modifications, which cause increased ryanodine receptor phosphorylation and downregulation of sarco-endoplasmic reticulum Ca ++ -ATPase transcription. Increased ROS also depress autonomic ganglion synaptic transmission by oxidizing the nAch receptor α3 subunit, potentially contributing to the increased risk of fatal cardiac arrhythmias associated with diabetic cardiac autonomic neuropathy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1808-1829
Number of pages22
JournalCirculation research
Issue number11
StatePublished - May 27 2016


  • atherosclerosis
  • diabetes mellitus
  • heart failure
  • insulin resistance
  • myocardial infarction
  • reactive oxygen species

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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